What is success?
Friday night lock-in = survived. Yesterday was spent primarily in bed trying to catch up on sleep so I could become a functioning member of society again. The lock-in was a total blast: sardines in the pitch black at 2 AM, 4 on a couch, Rock Band, PS3 Move, Prizes, Bunko Tournament, and a dodgeball tournament at 6 AM...I totally caught a ball with my face, which was both humbling and embarrassing...and also not something I would recommend, especially when thrown by a student with a robotic arm. Seriously, I don't know what they are feeding kids now-a-days but some of my students should be pitching in major league baseball based on how fast they can throw a dodgeball. It's frightening.
I had students ask me when we could do another lock-in, which is awesome because it meant that they enjoyed the lock-in, but at the same time the thought of doing another lock-in any time in the foreseeable future makes me want to cry. By the time I actually got to bed (930 AM) I could barely form a full sentence. I think I feel asleep with my socks on, can't be sure though.
After I awoke from my slumber I began to think about the night, and I determined that the lock-in was a 'success'.
Now what made it a success? That's the question that seems to be so hard/dangerous to answer in ministry.
Hard because things like spiritual growth, connectedness, group dynamics, atmosphere, etc are hard to quantify. Definitely not impossible, but hard. It's not like a math test, where either you are right or you're wrong. During a ministry program you are dealing with people, emotions, dynamics, logistics, details, time management, participation, comfort, and purpose. There are many variables that need to be identified and quantified.
Dangerous because you can start to play the numbers game very easily. Why? Well for starters its way easier to quantify numbers, you just count. It takes just a few seconds and boom, you've got your numbers. Plus in modern American Christianity numbers is THE game. The assumption is that the bigger your ministry is, be it youth or your entire church body, the better you are. I can't tell you the number of times, once someone finds out I'm a youth pastor, I've heard the question, "so, how many kids do you have?" or "how big is your group?"
Frankly, it's a little insulting. I understand why we think numbers means success, but really? The value of the work we do is completely dependent upon how big our group is on Wednesday nights? I don't mean to be dramatic, but I thought the value of our ministry is tied to the relationship with Christ we are cultivating in our young people.
I also don't want to sound like a holy roller, I struggle with the numbers game too. It is hard to not look at the numbers and either be disappointed or excited. But I know that I have to keep reminding myself that the value of our youth ministry is not based upon the number of students that come but on the depth and reality of our students relationship with God.
Do I want a lot of kids to be a part of our youth ministry? YES
Do I want a lot of kids to be a part of our youth ministry because it'll make me, the ministry, and/or our church look good? NO
Numbers are not evil, its the motivation to have those numbers that can become the problem. It is my job to check my motives everyday and ensure that I am leading this ministry in the right direction, which is always towards God.